The Screen Experience

by | London, UK

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

tags: europe, making sense, semiotics, technology

Screens are changing many aspects of human existence. They have created and redefined new forms of interaction, modifying everyday cultural practices and transforming spaces. I am interested in exploring in the light of a phenomenological thinking the screen experience. The screen usable as a mode of embodiment, considering aspects such as space-time and presence–absence.

Our body is considered to be under continuous adaptation by objects. Objects and body are equal participants in the making of meaning and under the actual circumstances; the mobile screens are not the exception. Nowadays, it is through our screens (especially with iPhones and iPads) where we are living “the invisible life, the invisible community, the invisible other, and the invisible culture” where we elaborate a phenomenology of the other world. It is on the screen where “I acknowledge an ‘I can’ or ‘I do’ which allows my relationship with the world and which is expressed in routine practices, actions, and bodily habits. The body is my means of entering into relation with the screen, is my embodied perception that reaches a reality beyond the reversibility of the screen. It is my body’s capacity to be both living and sensible.

Being on the Screen

The screen has become an intimate and perceptual space. The screen is a more intimate than private space, as some of our secrets and notes about our social world are keeping in there. We do not like strangers invading our screen. Screen is a perceptual space not only by the attachment to personal and emotional significances; the screen implies remembrances and affections that are very much relevant to the individual. While using our screens, we are constantly renegotiating our intimate – public space. When seeing the screen, one is in one's own intimate space, but manipulating the screen in the presence of others creates a certain social absence with little room for social encounters. The user may be physically present, but the mental orientation towards someone absent is unseen. Users often are renegotiating their presence in their private and public space. Presence in the ‘virtual’ space reduces the presence in the ‘real’ social space.

A phenomenological experience of the screen does not mean ‘pure presence’. Presence whether the body is ‘in here’ (screen) or ‘out there’. Being on the screen is a way of being in the world, it is a mode of being in relation with the other, but is the embodied perception of the screen that opens up a world we spontaneously and without doubt consider real. Merleau-Ponty refers to this as an experience that is “engaged to the other in such a way that we are never simply a disembodied onlooker or transcendental consciousness”.

Presence is a response to our perception that maximises agency through time interactivity between users and artefacts. Merleau-Ponty conceives presence in terms of perceptual experience that incorporates the dehiscence named as écart. The object can be seen only if there is a seer, but the seer can see only because it can be seen, is itself visible. It is on the screen where the invisible is not the opposite of the visible; it is the invisibility of the visibility. It must be neither past nor future, but rather right here, right now, right on the visible, right on the screen. The screen is écart. To think temporality is thinking of écart. Écart is invisible but the invisible and the visible belong to being the screen. Écart means proximity and distance, presence and absence, both sameness and difference.

© Lucia Neva 2010

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